The Security Studies Seminar is a monthly seminar series that aims to comprehensively discuss a new piece of academic research on matters pertaining to Indian and international security, with the author. 

In his new book, Line on Fire: Ceasefire Violations and India–Pakistan Escalation Dynamics (2018), Happymon Jacob provides a new perspective on India-Pakistan (Indo-Pak) border issues. He states that rather than the political and military forces of central governments, the local dynamics along the border—also known as autonomous military factors (AMFs)—are more likely to lead to ceasefire violations (CFVs) and further border escalations.

Carnegie India hosted Happymon Jacob, associate professor of disarmament studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, to discuss the drivers of Indo–Pak border escalations, based on his book. The discussion was moderated by Srinath Raghavan, senior fellow at Carnegie India.

Discussion Highlights

  • Causes of CFVs: Participants stated that the national political and military leaders of India and Pakistan are currently assumed to be the largest direct cause of CFVs on the border. However, they underlined that there must be a shift in focus to the AMFs present on the operational field, which are the true cause of the majority of CFVs. These factors include those that are inadvertent (such as civilian crossings and accidental firings), cultural, retributive, politico-strategic, and operational. They further stated that these AMFs along the border are driven by local commanders’ perceptions of the freedom and permissibility granted to them by the political classes in the central governments. However, the participants differed on whether greater political control over these AMFs is necessary, as it may run the risk of political parties with vested interests influencing military actions along the border. 
  • Escalation Dynamics and CFVs: Participants highlighted the importance of studying the correlation between CFVs and border escalations between India and Pakistan. They noted three broad cases where CFVs have an impact on escalation dynamics: one, where they directly cause escalations; two, where they exacerbate an ongoing situation and thereby spike escalations; and three, where military escalations take the form of CFVs. Additionally, they explained that the nature of the local, autonomous factor responsible for a CFV determines the extent of its correlation with border escalations. 
  • CFVs and Infiltrations: Participants noted that India and Pakistan disagree on the reasons for CFVs. They stated that India frequently labels Pakistan’s usage of CFVs as a cover for terrorist infiltrations into India. However, the participants differed on the extent to which terror infiltrations and CFVs can be correlated. Participants added, according to Pakistan, unprovoked firing by India on the Pakistani civilian population living along the border is the primary cause of CFVs. 
  • Policy Implications: Participants stated that, as India and Pakistan are unable to agree on the primary causes of CFVs, they have not been able to formulate successful policies to deter them. They emphasized the need for both governments to develop joint standard operating procedures to check CFVs and escalations along the border. Further, they noted the importance of structured communications and interactions between local company commanders on both sides to control the frequency of AMF-instigated CFVs and escalations. 

This event summary was prepared by Nikhila Eda, a research intern at Carnegie India.